Flaxby, UK: Problem crossing – the story continues….

7 Dec

The Oakwood Farm user worked crossing near Flaxby on the York to Harrogate line has a very long history of misuse and abuse going back to at least 1991 when I was British Rail’s regional director with responsibility for this crossing. Then, with manually operated gates, the authorised user and his guests routinely chose to leave the gates open. I do not know how many times someone was sent to the crossing to close the gates. Indeed the gates open at Oakwood Farm crossing generated numerous reports from train crew attesting to the gates being open again.

Significant investment on the part of the railway saw miniature stop lights installed, fully interlocked with the signalling system to ensure a very high integrity of warning.  However, misuse has continued since then and led to a collision on May 14th, 2015 that could have had catastrophic consequences. Fortunately no one was killed, although the train driver sustained injuries which kept him off work for 5 1/2 months when his train struck a tractor on the crossing.

Now the tractor driver who admitted endangering safety on the railway has been sentenced by Judge Paul Batty QC to 150 hours of unpaid community work and payment of £300 prosecution costs. The costs to the rail industry were nearly £120,000.

Listening to broadcast media reports and reading the contribution of print-based media it’s clear the long history of misuse has not been reported. In one case, the main story was the Judge saying that the crossing needs to be further upgraded by Network Rail. But, in reality can this be justified on safety grounds? Surely, there should be at least as great a focus on enforcing the safe use of the crossing as presently configured?  i do hope that Network Rail and British Transport Police are proactive in this regard.

3 Responses to “Flaxby, UK: Problem crossing – the story continues….”

  1. Andrew Fraser December 7, 2016 at 17:31 #

    Without knowing more of the circumstances, it’s difficult to know whether it might be possible to re-arrange ladn ownreship, such that the crossing is no longer needed. Clearly “enforcement” won’t work, as the risk is so low that users can’t perceive it. I suppose that’s been considered …

  2. mikelunan December 8, 2016 at 08:52 #

    What prevents NR suing the “owner” of the crossing for damages? If (s)he wasn’t the tractor driver then (s)he still had responsibility for the actions of an employee surely. The fact that a guilty verdict has been obtained on a criminal charge is surely helpful. Had the tractor been involved in a RTA the driver’s insurance would have covered Third Party liability for at least the sum you mention, Why not here?

    • Andrew Fraser December 9, 2016 at 11:11 #

      Far more useful would be to know why the tractor was there, in the first place. After all, someone might have been killed. (Reminder to self: RAIB report?)

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